Wednesday, November 03, 2010

No Time To Celebrate

John Boehner is correct. This is not a time to celebrate. This is not a Tea Party victory, although the movement had a decisive impact. This is not a GOP victory either. Last night was a vote of no confidence on both parties and politics which is still every bit business as usual. The Democrats need to get over their wound licking quickly. The coveted bloc of independent voters that both parties compete so savagely for - the real force behind Obama’s and the Democrat’s previous victory - are also the force behind this resounding slap in the face they received. There is a lot of work to do and this is a chance to create some true bipartisan cooperation like never before. If there is any real mandate from the public this would be it. The public is tired of rhetoric.

Glancing through some older posts from the last presidential election it is interesting to note how well we predicted what would happen. We didn’t foresee the Tea Party and a lot of the shrill insanity that was part of this election cycle, but we did see the rapid decline in Obama’s political capital and popularity. We predicted that significant losses were going to occur for Democrats 24 months ago, when Democrats were feeling exhilaration on another November 2 – that seemed so long ago. Two years is a generations in a political lifetime.

The problem, we predicted, was that Obama was just a little too slick – too polished an orator and he created a high level of expectations that would be impossible to meet. We knew that shortly after he took office his popularity would rapidly decline and that the shrill voices of America’s conservatives – sore after such humiliating loses – would begin to carp away at the president’s agenda and cloud the truth about the administrations successes. We feared that Obama was arrogant enough to believe his own press and hype and that the American public was going to have unrealistic expectations about his presidency.

The public is fickle, especially when the unemployment is high and their paychecks are not going as far. Obama was far too ambitious his first 2 years in office. For all his great skill as an orator he has not done a very good job at communicating with the public. Obama has lost his connection with the people who put him into office. He set the wrong priority and pushed it too hard.

As a supporter of health care reform in the form of a single payer system we stated here that health care reform was the wrong issue to launch his career in the oval office with. Unfortunately, he chose to push it hard. The legislation that currently is on the books is the wrong direction for health care. Despite some of the improvements it will put in place the majority of the public is not behind it. The legislation is too convoluted and GOP and Tea Party rags have done a great job of disparaging it. Here in Colorado, Ken Buck has outright lied about it saying things such as “when the government took over health care” and “when they nationalized health care,” neither statement is true.

Boehner and the rest of the newly elected GOP need to clarify their priorities as well. It would be huge missteps if they set about to immediately repeal the health care legislation or undo banking and Wall Street reforms their first weeks in office. They seem to understand that the economy is what propelled them back into office. What is doubtful is that they have learned anything from their recent defeat. We are already hearing the worn out fiscal conservative rhetoric that has been so prevalent since the Nixon era – policies that so clearly have not gotten us where we need to be as a nation.

The problem is, as it always will be, ideology and the incipient rhetoric that goes along with it. Today as Obama addressed the nation we heard him talk about “investing,” which, as one reporter suggested, will sound a lot like “spending” to the GOP who have promised to DOA any such attempts. Meanwhile, we continue to lag behind the world in technological, economic and educational opportunities. If both parties continue to have widely different conversations it is unlikely any real progress can be made.

Obama needs to reconnect with the people, especially the independents. They heard his message of hope and promise. In fact, they may have taken it a little too much to heart because they seemed to ignore the other part of his message – change and recovery were going to be slow and painful. He admonished us to be ready and willing to make painful sacrifices. Two years into his presidency and no one seems to remember him saying that. The public isn’t getting what they want and the GOP and the Tea Party successfully clouded the truth.

Obama has been so busy trying to keep America hopeful and willing to change that he failed to be brutally honest when necessary. Today, when he addressed the nation he sounded defensive when he spoke about the deficit and economic crises that he inherited not so long ago. I am not certain that most of the public understands that when he took office we were on the verge of a major collapse. Wall Street had melted down and many banks were on edge. This could have been very much like the Great Depression of the 1930’s. It was quick decisive action by both the Bush and Obama administrations that helped prevent the problem from getting much worse than it did,

The TARP plan put into effect by former President Bush and the economic stimulus plan of the Obama administration helped stave off what could have been a grand chaotic disaster. We should be grateful that a painful recession was all we experienced. Obama is correct – the economy is stabilized. The problem isn’t that the stimulus failed, as his opponents would have you believe, the problem is that it stopped short of what it needed to accomplish. The troubling problem is that it has not created the jobs and the level of spending that we would have hoped. This is what our congress and the president need to determine next. How do we create industry and jobs?

The silver lining in these midterm elections is that the GOP now has a real stake in governing. They can no longer be content to filibuster and criticize from the sidelines. The public has given them a second change at redemption and they need to produce real results. They will have to accept their share of any failures. Obama can no longer rely on the public to cut him some slack because he inherited some disasters. We know that. That is why he got elected. Both parties are going to need to cut the rhetoric for now and find a way to compromise and create real solutions.

The rank and file membership of traditional political parties is shrinking. An increasing number of people consider themselves independents and are not going to be content with the blithering rhetoric of either party’s ideology. They want results. That is the real message that both Democrats and the Republicans needs to have heard last night.

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